USCIRF issues report on religious freedom in Egypt
al-Warraq church - YOUM7/karem abd el karem

CAIRO: The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) stated that there continues to be repression in Egypt in its annual report on religious freedom issued Thursday.

The report included several countries including Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan and others.

Regarding Egypt, the report stated, “While the new constitution includes improvements regarding freedom of religion or belief, the interpretation and implementation of relevant provisions remain to be seen.”

It added that there are “repressive” laws and regulations in the country that control various forms of freedoms, including freedom of thought.

The 2014 report explained that the country still has verdicts to imprison people on charges of “blasphemy.”

USCIRF added in its annual report that different attacks targeted Christians during and after the rule of the ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

The reported further indicated that most sectarian attacks were not prosecuted, including the ones that took place in 2011 and 2012, adding “During the first half of 2013, sectarian rhetoric and incitement by Islamist clerics against Copts, Shiites, and Baha’is increased.”

The report referred to the attack that killed four Shiites, on June 23, 2013, including Sheikh Hassan Shehata, at the hands of a mob in Giza.

USCIRF also discussed the constitutional article 235, concerned with building and renovating churches, that says “The House of Representatives shall issue a law to regulate constructing and renovating churches, in a manner that guarantees the freedom to practice religious rituals for Christians. “

The report said that the article “lift[s] the longstanding requirement of governmental approval for building or repairing churches.”

The commission recommended that a part of the U.S. military aid is allocated to help police plan for protecting the religious minority and their places of worship.

Further, they called on Egyptian authorities to remove the religion check box from official identity cards, in as a step towards improving religious freedom.

Egypt has witnessed numerous sectarian attacks in past years, including a shooting attack that targeted a church in Cairo during a wedding last October.

The attack killed five people, including two children, and injured more than 18 others, including Muslims.

Moreover, for over 70 days, the village of Dalga in Upper Egypt remained under siege by a group of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and Islamists following the ousting of Morsi last July.

The group burned tens of Christians’ houses, causing many families to flee the village, according to several reports.

Security forces managed to free the village in a security campaign last September and arrested tens of militants who held the villagers under siege.

The fact-finding commission that was designated to investigate the aftermath of the Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins stated last March that MB supporters burned tens of churches in 23 Egyptian governorates.

Additionally, Human Rights Watch called Egyptian Authorities, August 22, to protect churches and religious facilities from what it described as “mob attacks.”

Further, various cases of the prosecution of atheists have come under public scrutiny and critique in the years following the revolution, many of whom face trials on charges of insulting religions, including Alfred Shaker, whose case sparked major controversy.

Additionally, the Alexandria Security Director announced the formation of a force to prosecute atheists.

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